Soil moisture levels in southwestern Saskatchewan have been dealt a rough hand so far this winter.

The snowpack in the region has ranged from non-existent to below average for much of the last three months.

Historically winter precipitation accounts for a small percentage of moisture received throughout the year. Although growing season rains are more critical, the winter months can set producers ahead if there's a large snowpack that melts slowly.

Matt Struthers, the provincial cereal crop specialist with the Sask. Ministry of Agriculture, said quick melts tend to only benefit dugouts, unlike soil conditions.

"The soil really isn't absorbing a lot of that moisture," he said. "If there is a little bit of moisture in that top few inches, then if it's frozen then it's not going to thaw out before the snow runs off of it so there isn't a whole lot of draw into that soil."

Swift Current only received 10 millimetres of precipitation in December and January combined, about one-third of the 31.2 millimetre two-month average. Snowfall amounts can strengthen fall rye and winter wheat.

"Those winter cereals, really want to get them insulated from those really cold temperatures with a new blanket of snow," he said. "We want to see a good snowfall to recharge any groundwater bodies such as dugouts and creeks. Earlier in the spring and that's going to play a large role for our cattle producers."